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This announcement needs a little bit of translation from the marketing language it's written in:

> And thanks to the hard work of everyone on the Access team, our business is solid: our subscriber base and revenue are growing quickly, and we expect that growth to continue.

"We're not yet profitable."

> We have refined our plan going forward to achieve these objectives. It entails us making changes to focus our business and product strategy. Importantly, the plan enhances our focus on new technology and deployment methods to make superfast Internet more abundant than it is today.

"Building fiber infrastructure in cities isn't a viable business model."

> For most of our “potential Fiber cities” — those where we’ve been in exploratory discussions — we’re going to pause our operations and offices while we refine our approaches.

"We're not going to build out any more cities using this approach."

> In this handful of cities that are still in an exploratory stage, and in certain related areas of our supporting operations, we’ll be reducing our employee base.

"We're winding down Google Fiber operations and putting it on life support."

> As for me personally, it’s been quite a journey over the past few years, taking a broad-based set of projects and initiatives and growing a focused business that is on a strong trajectory. And I’ve decided this is the right juncture to step aside from my CEO role.

"I'm getting out of this while it still looks good."


That's too bad. Google Fiber has put a lot of needed pressure on existing telecommunications mega-corps to improve their services. I really wanted to see it take off well enough to result in some major improvements to infrastructure around the country, but having worked for an ISP in a previous lifetime, I was skeptical that they'd be able to do it profitably. Last-mile fiber is expensive, expensive, expensive.

I'm sure Comcast and Time Warner and friends are all breathing a sigh of relief.

This is why I read the comments first, just avoided another painful article.

Do people who communicate in spin-speak start to think that way on the inside too?

Oh that's an interesting question. When I speak a different languages I switch to thinking in that language (this goes for human and computer languages). If I talk with a Russian friend, I think in Russian. When use a functional programming language I switch to thinking in functional concepts (maps, folds, list comprehension, closures). When in an OO language think about composition and so on.

So when they write that stuff I imagine for an hour they switch to "CEO mode" and think in those concepts, write things down. Then they become themselves [+].

Also the best propaganda is propaganda that is internalized, people often brainwash themselves, because it makes things easier and is much more effective than pretending to speak one thing but think another.

[+] One can argue there is no such thing as "oneself" and we are all just a sequences of such personas or roles we play. But that's for a philosophical aside.

That's absolutely fascinating, because I personally always think the same "way." Are you aware of any research on this subject?

I always think in the language I am currently speaking/listening to. And I'm pretty sure everyone else does.

As for programming languages, I myself haven't done functional programming, but I'd imagine if I did, I would temporarily discard any OO programming knowledge I have, while busy coding something in a functional way. Because OO concepts are mostly irrelevant in that case, so why would you be thinking about them?

Discarding OO concepts is easier said than done. I'm betting that inability to discard OO concepts is the main hurdle people have while learning FP.

The good ones generally map to (pardon the pun) equivalent functional concepts.

After working in F# for a while if I flip back to something else I'll spend twice as long getting anything done as I'll model my process in my head with tools I don't have access to. I just keep getting stuck, and having to force myself to think without maps and folds and so on.

Like any context switch it takes me time to get back into the right mindset and process meaningfully.

There's a lot of research that shows that polyglots exhibit different personalities when conversing in different languages. Empirically, I experience this.


"Linguistic relativity, also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis or Whorfianism, is a concept-paradigm in linguistics and cognitive science that holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers' cognition or world view."

What OP is mentioning is only tangentially related to linguistic relativity - more precisely Sapir-Whorf was making very general statements (most of which have not been found to be empirically supported) about the affect of language on world view (e.g. including differences in color word).

> Do people who communicate in spin-speak start to think that way on the inside too?

A friend rose up through the ranks in a Telco to become a Director, and I genuinely think she believed the spin-speak was/is real.

She spent so many years of her life in meetings having it hammered into her head, then spent so many years hammering it into the heads of others, she actually thought it was real life.

Even when we were on vacation out camping away from the office, she would talk about the company using spin-speak. It was not possible to say "cut the crap, let's be frank". She was unaware there was any crap to cut.

> This is why I read the comments first, just avoided another painful article.

The comments also load a lot faster than the article, usually :)

I sometimes wonder about that too.

I remember when Ellen Pao was accused of this when she was CEO of Reddit. I think she also made mistakes like posting private links.

> I'm sure Comcast and Time Warner and friends are all breathing a sigh of relief.

They were never worried in the first place. Their network architects are not idiots or anything; they know the economics of what Google was trying to do and they knew it wouldn't turn into anything threatening unless Google was willing to sink over $20 billion into it. Their attitude has been "worst case, we buy the infrastructure from Google when they lose patience with it".

Problem is, Google's business approach of coming to market with market-leading technology wasn't a novel approach here. Telecoms and cable companies have always worked closely with the innovators in their market -- and the limiting factor is often hard materials science, so Google didn't have the technology advantage they were used to.

> Last-mile fiber is expensive, expensive, expensive.

Last-mile anything is expensive. Maintenance is a bitch because all sorts of crap happens up on those poles -- wind, tree branches, ice, animals chewing the cables (squirrels will chew on almost anything), other vendors breaking your setup on accident... My guess is that Google didn't account for a lot of that crap and their maintenance costs were way higher than they expected.

Since Google Fiber started we got a fiber network in my area from Cincinnati Bell that allowed me to kick Time Warner in the nuts. It was more satisfying than the ending to Breaking Bad. I've saved money and gotten all the speed it promised. I don't know how much Google's example was involved in bringing this to us, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

I'm sure it had some impact in generating market demand for higher speeds; because the reason nobody offered gigabit to the home was that customers value 100 mbps Internet at something like $60/mo and only value gigabit Internet at $75/mo. But it costs the ISPs a lot more to provide gigabit, so the numbers just don't work out. If Google helped to push the "willingness to pay" for gigabit Internet access up a bit, the ISPs are likely grateful for the help.

I guess I see what you're paying. So right now you can get a 50 mbps plan for $50 through CinBell Fioptics or $65 through Time Warner. I've only ever paid up to the 100 mbps plan for Fioptics though, and then went down one grade because the speed was far more than I needed. I've had every time warner plan, and was ecstatic when Netflix wouldn't buffer constantly. Maybe it's just the far less traffic on the fiber making it superior, but everything about my Fioptics experience has been pleasant. They don't charge extra for a modem or router, and the reps have always been easy to deal with.

> Their network architects are not idiots or anything

Google architects aren't idiots either are they? What did Google hope to achieve? Or did they really go into this naively thinking it could be done? Serious question - I haven't followed this very closely.

Was this all a test bed to see what type of apps could be built with ubiquitous high speed access?

I don't think they were idiots; but Google's whole operating model is built around taking Very Smart People and throwing them at Hard Problems. Sometimes, a problem may seem to be ripe for disruption because it is held back by what seems like a lot of legacy overhead. The assumption is that you can come in with a different approach, and change the operating model to the point you end up with a structural cost advantage over your competitors.

And sometimes that doesn't happen. What may have looked like a stodgy and ripe-for-disruption industry may actually be one with huge logistical challenges that force the industry to be stodgy and slow -- not the other way around. Still, it was a good bet for Google as part of a portfolio strategy: if you make 10 of these types of bets and only 2 of them pan out, you're still doing pretty well. It's not always obvious which industries are ripe for disruption and which ones are held back by market forces and product constraints.

I think they saw it as "Maybe we can find a new model that can disrupt the market, maybe not, but at the bare minimum we can force the ISPs to do better which benefits every other service we provide." They never provided Google Fiber with the kind of investment it would have taken to be successful on a large scale -- Verizon spends more money on its network in 3 days than Google Fiber spent in its entire existence -- so I don't think they seriously thought it would end up as a success. It's also a big CapEx investment in infrastructure, which has a pretty good salvage value if sold to other telecoms (so they'll likely get a good portion of their investment in GF back).

At the end of the day if they end up losing $20-30 million on the whole Fiber deal, they'd call it a success for raising the mindshare of what consumer Internet can and should be. It also won Google a lot of points in the court of public opinion against the major ISPs, so as a marketing / PR exercise it was likely a positive contribution to Google.

Thanks for your thoughts. Raising the mindshare sounds like they are just doing a public service out of the goodness of their heart. But you are right, it can't hurt them in the court of public opinion.

It's not even about that. Google's services are delivered over the Internet, so they're reliant on someone else to deliver their traffic (and advertisements). Their corporate strategy playbook in those cases is to either commoditize or disintermediate their market dependencies.

In this case, I think they were looking at Fiber more as a "model" for other overbuilders (similar to what they did with the Nexus phones). If Fiber was as successful as Google had hoped, they'd probably open source their operational model since it would effectively commoditize the last-mile access business and give Google more negotiating power with ISPs (without having to invest a ton of money). It was never a business they wanted to be in long-term.

Obviously, it didn't work out the way they had hoped. My guess is that subscribers didn't flock to them the way they had imagined. The Internet is a big echo chamber on this issue; and of course anyone commenting on an Internet forum is going to be technologically adept enough to care about Gigabit broadband. If their market analysis was done online, I can see how they might get false signals due to a sample set of "frequent Internet users" rather than "people who pay for Internet access". It's a subtle distinction, but actually quite relevant since the people who pay for but don't use Internet access often are the ones who make the whole model work.

When you get out into the real world where telecom service is measured in homes passed and take rates, you realize that those "vocal Internet users" make up maybe 10-20% of the market. ISPs make the bulk of their profits from Grandma Mabel who pays $70/mo for a triple play bundle and uses 100 MB of traffic a month. Households like Grandma Mabel account for probably half of an ISPs customers, and Grandma Mabel is not going to get any additional benefit from Gigabit Internet -- so she's not going to pay any more for it.

The big ISPs haven't offered gigabit residential service until recently because there was simply not enough demand for it to justify the expense. I think Google assumed that was just a negotiating position, and that there was a larger, unserved demand for high-speed residential connections. But either way, faster Internet is better for Google's core businesses (YouTube, search, etc.) When you own 70%+ of your market like Google does, you become more concerned with growing the market overall than with growing your share. And considering broadband infrastructure is a capital investment that holds its value pretty well, they honestly had very little to lose. But it's telling that they never invested more than a pittance into the Fiber project as a whole.

Thanks, nice job. I must say I am more saddened by the way Google chose to word it than by the fact that they are killing it.

Google have been spewing gratuitously specious numbers for some years now. A piece in VentureBeat from 2012:


"This post on Google+ statistics is a billion* times better than any other post"

But what concerns me most is that Google is touting these meaningless statistics in the hopes that journalists will misunderstand them and report that Google+ is seeing rapid growth. The bottom line is, those 60 percents, 80 percents and 90 million registered users are just there to mask the fact that Google doesn’t want to tell us how many people are actually using Google+.

(Disclaimer: I helped lift the lid on actual G+ usage numbers.)

what's the trend on G+ usage? Any chance that in the near future we'll be able to search for anything with a '+' sign in it and get a relevant answer rather than some G+ page?

I haven't run a re-assessment, and I'm not aware that Stone Temple Consulting (who'd greatly expanded sampling based on my methods) have, though Eric Enge's mentioned doing so.

There are a few sources which track online social network usage, and my experience has been that G+ trends are down, sufficiently enough that they've fallen off the survey's entirely.

If you wan to trac total posting activity and trends per year, a Google search on "this site:plus.google.com" restricted by year should give a rough idea of how the relative quantity of English-lanugage posts are trending. I'm suggesting this as a nonsemantic, high-frequency, English word not likely to be biased strongly by annual trends. (Alternatively "upon" and "thus" are suggested by another person who's done similar research.)

My informal sense is that people are tending to defect from the system. I'm very hesitant to apply personal impressions though due to the enormous sampling bias implied.

Thank you.

A quick check on "this" and "upon thus" searches suggests that Google's search results depth may not be sufficient to measure the size. I was seeing ~400-500 results for each going back to 2012, on an Oct 26 - Oct 25 year (just to get most current data).

Thanks. When I read those thing it is like they are written in a different language. Reading it I got a positive vibe even -- oh look we are growing and are about to just deploy some amazing new technology. The stepping down part was a surprise at the end a bit.

Corporate-speak is a funny thing. I guess it is in a way a test or a filter for good SVPs and CEOs -- can they speak in this language (they better). Talking honestly and plainly would sound so harsh and negative probably.

I have come to the conclusion that the difference between directors and VPs is that VPs have better platform skills. The difference between VPs and officers is the ability to spew this kind of corporate bs without thought on the fly in front of a crowd.

> I'm sure Comcast and Time Warner and friends are all breathing a sigh of relief.

Not really. I read this as "Google no longer regards wireline providers as an existential threat as everybody is on mobile."

Google fiber was never about profit; it was about preventing Comcast et al. from cutting Google off from users

Right after Google announced they were pulling out of Portland, Comcast immediately raised prices and added a data cap to existing plans.

Just because google fiber had a side effect of helping consumers doesn't mean it was googles motivation.

What reason did google have to believe Comcast was going to "cut off" access to users?

Comcast and the other ISPs are ever going to "cut off" access to anything.

What they have done and will continue to do is to make it extraordinarily difficult to use other companies services that replace their own. For example, many ISPs today are now putting in bandwidth caps. They claim that they only affect the top 1% of users. This may be true today, but once 4k 60FPS content becomes the norm. those bandwidth caps will affect everyone.

Of course, they won't actually affect everyone. But Comcast can use the threat of enforcing them as a bargaining chip with Netflix, Amazon, HBO/Time Warner/AT&T...

I agree with the first point which is why I asked.

On the second point, the fact is that while bandwidth caps will affect everyone, so will everyone streaming 4K video. That seems like a self defeating argument.

At the time there was talk of any semblance of net neutrality disappearing and the internet going the AOL model.

^ That's a great translation. RIP Google Fiber.

As usual, the news leaked out well in advance as rumors: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12364270 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12362830

Pretty much exactly the interpretation a Googler posted earlier:


"We have refined our plan!

"We're going to push technology, remain a leader, enhance our focus, and in general optimize our synergistic long-term 'outside the box' thinking for high-impact de-risking of our core vertical integrations for enhanced customer satisfaction.

"Oh, and practically speaking, all these positive things are happening because we're stopping investment and reducing our headcount, and our CEO is stepping aside."

The shit's not even selling on the inside.

The shit's not even selling on the inside.

Googlers are quite good at translating executive messages. I wish I could see the internal memes for this.

I'm almost sure that by now, a Googler is inspired to train an AI to translate PR messages to what they really are.

I think this is an area where humans will have an advantage for some time to come. Would be a fun experiment though.

You have to wonder why they bother with the newspeak though, it seems to pointless.

"Advancing our amazing bet" = "Pausing our struggling bet"

"bailing out of this losing bet"

It certainly does sound like a riff on the "our incredible journey" format.

I suspect this is not a coincidence. It looks to me like a coded message written by a real person trying to get a press release past a bunch of PR flacks.

It's possible that

> As for me personally, it’s been quite a journey over the past few years, taking a broad-based set of projects and initiatives and growing a focused business that is on a strong trajectory. And I’ve decided this is the right juncture to step aside from my CEO role.

could mean "I've been fired because although we're spinning this as a market failure, I didn't have any viable plans to make it successful"

Usually if they are voluntarily stepping aside, they've got the next thing lined up.

That was the same thing that happened and the same positioning they used for Tony at Nest, right?

Now that's a professional TL;DR. Thank you. Is there already a good TLDRAAS out there?

http://smmry.com/about is the closest I've seen, but can't do the same kind of translation from corpspeak to plain language.

That title sure doesn't match the payload.

Not for the first time. The title of the announcement killing Reader was "an update on Reader".

There ought to be a gallery of such examples.

This tumblr account serves as a log of the language used in acquisitions: https://ourincrediblejourney.tumblr.com/

At least "Importantly, the plan enhances our focus on new technology and deployment methods to make superfast Internet more abundant than it is today." sounds promising. Maybe Google "Fiber" is going to be replaced by some new technology which achieves similar results but is easier to deploy.

Plus, anyone who self-describes their actions as 'amazing' should never be trusted.

"I'm getting out of this while it still looks good." MADE MY DAY xD

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